Compost project promotes waste reduction on Chebeague Island

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CHEBEAGUE ISLAND — With the help of a grant from the Island Institute and the support of friends and family, Sarah McKinnon and Kyle Koerber have started a community composting project on the island.

Grasshopper Hill Compost is a community-based project desigend to promote sustainable living, reduce waste at the transfer station, and convert waste into useful soil for gardening.

McKinnon, a Chebeague Island resident, submitted a Four-Season Agriculture Fund grant application in late March, and received $500 to start the project in April. The small-grant program from the Island Institute helps support sustainable-agriculture projects in Maine’s 15 unbridged, year-round island communities.

“We used the grant to buy tools to maintain the compost and buckets for people to use,” McKinnon said. “There is a lot of work involved and the grant helped get us some of the materials we need.”

Other materials used to build the bins came from recycled, donated and discarded objects found on the island, she said. They used pallets left over from construction sites and restaurants, and wire, rope, wood and rocks from the beach.

Resident Marguerite Bowman contributes chicken waste for the compost, Mark Bowman helped construct the bins, and Leila and Suhail Bisharat donated the land where the compost bins are located.

“We are starting small, but hope more people will participate as we get going,” McKinnon said. “Composting will reduce waste, will enrich the soil, and can save money for taxpayers.”

Leila Bisharat, a member of the Island Institute board, said she and her husband are happy to help McKinnon and Koerber. She said they have been curious and supportive of the project since the beginning.

“People here are willing to help others with innovative projects,” Bisharat said. “Behavioral change takes time … but I think this project will grow.”

A large portion of Chebeague’s budget is dedicated to moving waste off the island, Bisharat said, and anything to reduce that cost will benefit residents, businesses and the community as a whole.

“I think (McKinnon and Koerber) have really taken on something that is a vital need. They are both busy people, so this project is special dedication on their part,” Bisharat said. “I think like a lot of good initiatives, if they can get others to help, it can become self-sustaining.”

The Chebeague Inn, Calder’s Clam Shack and The Niblic, the store at the Chebeague Island Boat Yard, are three businesses participating in the compost project. McKinnon said she hopes to soon add the Island Commons assisted living facility to that list.

Vicki Todd, McKinnon’s sister and manager of The Niblic, said in an e-mail on Tuesday it is important for the store to compost because there is a lot of waste generated.

“My family composts at home, and I thought about bringing (the store’s compost) home, but then it seemed like a hassle and another thing to remember in an already busy day,” she said. “It is easy for me and my employees to compost now with buckets provided and having it picked up on a regular basis.”

She said she hopes more residents and businesses will participate in the project.

“It is an easy way to help our environment and the cost of transporting waste off island is not cheap. It makes sense to participate on many levels,” Todd said. “The Chebeague Island School has a garden and composts, so we are teaching our children the importance that composting has on our island environment. I hope that more people jump on board once they give it a try and see how easy Sarah and Kyle have made it for all of us.”

McKinnon and Koerber visit each business and home participating in the project about twice a week to pick up the generated compost. There is also a bin on Littlefield Road for residents to drop off compost on their own.

Koerber said this is the first step of a larger project.

“We’d like to expand the program, hold workshops on how to compost, and take it to other islands,” he said. “What we have now is a good start, but we’d like to see more people participate.”

Eventually, he said they would like to incorporate a renter’s program for people who visit the island.

“Our goal is to reduce our dependence on the transfer station, save money, and help the environment,” he said.

For more information or to participate, email

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or

Sidebar Elements

The Grasshopper Hill Compost project initiated by Sarah McKinnon of Chebeague Island and Kyle Koerber of Portland urges residents and businesses to reduce waste by composting food, coffee grounds, grass, sawdust and wood chips. For a list of items that can be composted, contact